A Gulfport woman’s request that Gulfport City Council pass a resolution supporting women’s control over their reproductive organs led to a debate on the dais.
“I ask you to continue Gulfport’s progress, championing a resolution for reproductive rights,” said Natasha Milburn said, “To protect abortion and let human rights make our own health care decisions.”
Mayor Sam Henderson demurred, saying he would rather council to provide a letter of support.
“One of the things that people need to remember is that we do represent everybody,” Henderson said. “I don’t want to be the old white guy putting pen to paper, writing a resolution for women’s reproductive rights. I think that’s the wrong thing for me to do.”
Henderson added he would be “wide open” to someone creating a template of “what you would like for it to say, and putting it in the form of a letter.”
At Henderson’s urging when he became mayor, council stopped addressing national issues in the form of a resolution.
“We don’t have any ability to change those laws at this level,” Henderson said. “I am more than happy to put my name, and any other council member who wants to be a signatory and send that (letter) to Tallahassee or to any other representative that you want.”
“I would like to do a resolution, and there already is a written resolution that was done by Planned Parenthood,” Ward One Councilwoman Thanos said.
“My preference is a signature, so I am going to stick by the letter,” Henderson replied.
Thanos, in response, told Henderson that “should check everybody’s opinion” and suggested that council place a resolution supporting women’s reproductive rights, written by Planned Parenthood and Equality Florida, on the next council agenda.
“Resolutions are ignored just as easily as a letter,” Henderson said. “I think a letter on the agenda would serve the purpose, but that’s my opinion.”
“I know it’s your opinion,” Thanos said. “But this is my opinion. A resolution is a stronger statement.”
Paul Ray, the Ward Three Councilman, suggested the council put together both a letter and a resolution, “and then decide at the next council meeting.”
“I personally don’t think it is time to go back to coat hangers; it is a ridiculous situation that the state has put us in. But at the same time, I think a letter would be much more appropriate. I don’t want to put (council) people on the spot here,” Gulfport’s Ward Four Councilman, Michael Fridovich, said.